Quantitative Comparison of Online Term Lengths at a Mississippi Community College

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Online education has become a major component of higher education providing flexibility to traditional and non-traditional students and a pathway for academic achievement. Online course offerings have increased over the decade and course lengths have begun to shorten. Traditional length semester courses of 15- or 16-weeks are now being offered in accelerated formats fewer than five weeks, although research is limited concerning accelerated online courses of four-weeks or fewer. The research study sought to address the gap in the research literature of online course lengths of four-weeks or fewer. Equivalency theory postulates students receive equivalent experiences in online courses. This research study compared student outcomes in traditional length and accelerated length online general psychology courses at a Mississippi community college. Using three years of archival data from a Mississippi community college, this study compared student success, retention rates, pass rates, and mastery rates in three- and four-week online courses to 15-week online courses. The objective was to share the research results with the Mississippi community college and the research community to provide students, administrators, instructors, and distance learning faculty, empirical evidence pertaining to the impact of online course lengths on student outcomes. The analysis showed a statistically significant difference in success rates, pass rates, and student mastery between accelerated online and traditional online course lengths. No statistically significant difference was found in retention rates between accelerated online and traditional online course lengths. The conclusion was accelerated online can produce equivalent outcomes as traditional length online courses.